My mother always said that when you get to a certain age you should try something new everyday, just to make life a bit more interesting. With that in mind, I decided to try my hand at fencing, in a sword fighting masterclass for Epsom residents at Ebbisham Sports Club.
At the club, five other novices join me and coach Nick Payne for the introductory lesson. Dressed in tracksuits and trainers we are expectant of the part where we get to hold the weapons and start leaping around and fighting like a bunch of eager Jedi knights.
Nick, former British number one and former British Junior Champion, starts the lesson by teaching the basics, how to position yourself and move, and by giving safety instructions – mainly how to not hit anyone in the face if they have no mask on.
After being given the protective mask and boob-shaped body armour I feel somewhat patronised, when, instead of a shiny metal sword, I am given an orange plastic one that makes a sound like one of the Clangers when you strike its tip.
Competitive fencing has three choices of sword, foil, épée and sabre and the coach wisely shows us the real ones at the end of the class, after we have quenched our thirst for poking one another.
Once the exercise commences, although I regret carrying the extra pounds, I am really happy to learn all the technical terms and realise that I can actually fence with the wonderfully-safe plastic orange foils. We are set up in doubles and practice the attack, parry (a form of defence where you stop your opponent’s sword with your own), riposte and counter-riposte.
A small competition takes place and I manage to win my first fight by three hits to one. Overcome with joy and expecting to win the title I, unsurprisingly, also manage to be eliminated before the end. It looks like I won’t be any country’s fencing hope for 2012 after all.
At the end of a whole hour-and-a-half of intensive exercise, I feel happy to have practised one of the earliest Olympic sports.
Nick says: “Fencing on one level is very fun and on a second level is great to keep fit, but also there’s a lot of technical elements to it. All the technical terms are not difficult to learn – with basic training you can learn the basic moves, then you realise how technical it can be. When you’re learning about the footwork you then have to remember about the handwork and so you have to use your brain as well as your physical skills.”
The good news for Epsom residents is that, like me, can give fencing a try when the new Epsom Fencing Club opens on January 7. With a Lottery grant of £10,000, Nick set up the club to offer affordable classes for youths and adults in the area.
“It is a brand-new fencing club that could come to life thanks to a Lottery grant that we got from Awards for All,” he says. “We could buy a whole new set of beginners’ equipment and it is enough for us to get at least ten junior beginners, 11 to 15-year-olds and adult beginners, from 16 years old.”
Fencing classes at the club are due to take place on Wednesdays at 7pm for youths and 8pm to 9pm for adults at a cost of £50 for a five-week course.